HL Deb 09 December 1971 vol 326 cc891-3

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what knowledge they have of the presence in Britain of an intelligence service operating on behalf of the Government of the Republic of South Africa.]


My Lords, it is accepted practice not to answer Questions about intelligence matters unless illegal activities are being conducted by foreign representatives which make it in the public interest to do so. We have no evidence of any such activities on the part of South African officials.


My Lords, may I first ask the Minister whether there is any doubt at all that the South African Bureau of State Security is carrying out intelligence activities in this country? Is there not much evidence from individuals, Liberals from South Africa, and from organisations concerned with apartheid that that surveillance is now being conducted?


My Lords, it is very difficult to comment on general allegations. If any evidence is produced, and is made available to my right honourable friend, of illegal activities in the United Kingdom, whether by South African officials or anybody else, we shall certainly follow it up.


My Lords, may I proceed to give that evidence? May I ask Her Majesty's Government what they have done about recent occurrences? Is the Minister aware that last week the headquarters of the Society of Friends—the Quakers—in Euston Road was raided; that there was thieved from there all the documents referring to Church-sponsored exchanges between South Africans and Britons, and, further, that the files and card indexes of all subcribers to the Friends' Peace and International Relations Committee were taken? Is the Minister not aware that these were of no value at all except to the intelligence services of South Africa and that these actions have followed similar raids en and thefts from the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Movement for Colonial Freedom?


My Lords, I am aware of the theft of documents from Friends' House. The police are making inquiries, but any action to be taken as a result of this incident will naturally depend on what, if anything, is discovered.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, referred specifically to South African officials: does this apply also to people who might be engaged in collecting intelligence on behalf of the South African Government who may not be South Africans?


My Lords, I am sorry not to be more forthcoming on this question but, as the noble Lord knows very well, the convention is that intelligence matters are not discussed in public. It would not be right for me to disclose in your Lordships' House the extent to which the Government have knowledge of the activities of foreign Powers either in this country or elsewhere.


My Lords, is there any country in the world which does not obtain intelligence from its Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other officials who are properly accredited and authenticated in every country?


My Lords, I do not want to comment any further on this question. I gave a full and considered reply to the original Question on the Order Paper and I do not want to amplify it.